December 23, 2015
ASU engineer and sustainability scientist Narayanan Neithalath's proposal was among fewer than ten selected by the European Commission from nearly 100, with only one other from the United States. His $1.6 million award will be used to find out whether mixing a phase-change material with concrete can significantly enhance the durability of pavements and bridge decks.
Phase-change materials are substances that respond to temperature variations by changing their state from solid to liquid or vice versa, and can be sourced from petroleum or plants. The substance Neithalath's Infravation team is working with is especially effective at absorbing and releasing thermal energy, which makes it a good choice for mixing with concrete. This is because the material can absorb much of the heat it is exposed to, thereby protecting concrete from temperatures that can trigger fractures.